NYCLOWNFEST: on the nose

Sabrina Mandell as Poppy Cox, assistant to the Professor

There is a time-honored trope in clown theatre of the false lecture– pompous guy who purports to know everything about something gives a lecture, but weird things keep happening to him, usually due to the bumbling of his sidekick.  The concept is not original, but this production of On the Nose, which features the Happenstance Theater‘s Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell, and is directed by former Cirque performer Elena Day and written by Antony Bolante is delightful and fun to watch.

Part of the magic is the film behind it.  They’ve interviewed a number of well-known clowns and clown teachers to ask them about all aspects of clowning.  The live show is punctuated by these interviews.  At the first show, there were a fair amount of interviewees in the audience, including Ambrose Martos, Julie Pasqual, and Joel Jeske.  Other interviewees include Gardi Hutter, Bill Irwin, Sue Morrison, Jef Raz, Hilary Chaplain, Amy Gordon, Hovey Burgess and Giovanni Fusetti (among others also)

On the Nose

Sabrina Mandell and Mark Jaster discuss where to stick the pie.

The performances are really well done.  Jaster brings the pomposity, but he’s also open and vulnerable. He also channels a Shaman at one point, and it gets downright spooky. Mandell has an Olive Oyl/Lucille Ball quality that makes her a great and exuberant foil for the professor.  As they wind through the history of clowns, and run through various subjects (Pie in the face, coulrophobia, women in clowning, euphemisms about how you tell people that you are a clown (I prefer to say I’m a theatrical performer or theatre artist myself), the story also progresses so that by the end, their love-song duet (saw and ukelele) is just a beautiful ending to a mighty fine show.

There are a couple of wonderful clown moments in the show– they argue about who should pie who, (and go through Mack Sennet’s Rules of the Pie) Eventually they get a neutral arbitrar (an audience member) to pie one of the two.  It was a nicely thought out bit.  Another great bit is when the professor leaves to get the electronic grader.  I don’t want to spoil the fun, but let’s say that it gives you an opportunity to reflect on some of the things in your life that are important to you.

The Duet at the end.

This was of course a great audience for it– half the people were clowns or related to clowning.  But I think that in the real world, where people that own red noses did not comprise 80% of the audience, this show would win over a lot of people.

They have one more show left (tonight at 7 pm) Try not to miss it!

And if you do miss it, visit their website for a celebration of modern clown, and where to see it next.

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